GOP goes on the offensive [Waterbury Rep-Am]

March 27, 2015


Dems slammed on budget, elections

HARTFORD — In blazing broadsides Thursday, Republican leaders of the legislature pounded the Democratic majority and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy over campaign finance reform and the budget shortfall.

House and Senate Republicans blasted a clean elections bill that is scheduled for a hearing today, saying the Democratic legislation not only fails to close loopholes and fix flaws exposed in the last election cycle, but creates more of both.

Republicans complained that Democrats on the Government Administration and Elections Committee ignored GOP ideas for reforming campaign finance laws.

Flanked by rank-and-file members, Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, and Sen. Leonard A. Fasano, R-North Haven, also bashed Malloy for failing to act quickly enough to head off a projected budget deficit that a new estimate pegs as close to $200 million.

The governor’s office pushed back against the budget criticisms and pointed an accusing finger right at Republicans.

The two Republican leaders chided the Democratic governor for rejecting GOP offers to work on a bipartisan solution for closing the budget gap since the administration first reported a shortfall in November.

Klarides criticized Malloy for traveling around the country to raise money for the national Democratic Party to spend on other candidates instead of working with Republicans on the budget deficit.

He will chair the Democratic Governors Association in the key election year of 2016.

“You have all seen Sen. Fasano and I and our caucuses for months and months on end sounding like a broken record asking for us to sit down, have conversations, have us put all our suggestions on the table and come to some sort of reasonable solution. That clearly has not happened,” she said.

Fasano said Republicans have been pressing for budget talks since November, but Malloy and Democratic leaders each have ignored the GOP overtures and made excuses for not acting.

“The people of Connecticut suffer because they refuse to have a conversation. Conversation costs nothing. Zero. Just a little time. So why wouldn’t you do it? I don’t know why. It makes no sense,” he said.

Now, Fasano said, the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis is projecting a $191 million shortfall, and there are only three months left in the fiscal year. He questioned where money will be found to close the gap.

THE LEGISLATURE will also be adopting a two-year budget plan for 2016 and 2017 this year.

Fasano and Klarides are discussing the possibility of offering an alternative Republican budget again. They said no decisions have been made.

When Republicans have offered alternative budgets in the past, Fasano said, Malloy and administration officials have immediately dismissed each one as worthless without having taken time to read through the documents.

“We did a transportation plan. In a half-hour, he called the thing silly and something else,” he said, referring to the governor. “You know, that’s the type of rhetoric we don’t need in this building, but that is the kind of rhetoric we get all the time, and it is so childish. It really is, and when we stop doing it, we can advance this state meaningfully.”

Mark Ojakian, the governor’s chief of staff, fired back, challenging Republicans to propose an alternative budget.

“The only thing that’s childish is the comedy show of the GOP. Can they really say they’re doing their jobs as legislators if they haven’t put out a budget of their own? They say they have ideas — are they secret ideas? Apparently press releases are the only thing they’re able to put down on paper, so until they publicly release a real, detailed budget of their own, they can’t be taken seriously,” Ojakian said.

Klarides and Fasano called the news conference to hammer the Democratic majority over the campaign finance legislation and highlight Republican proposals that were excluded from the reform bill.

REPUBLICANS PROPOSED to eliminate election grants for unopposed candidates and reduce all election grants by 25 percent.

The GOP reforms also included reinforcing the state contractor ban to keep contractor contributions to a party’s federal fundraising committees from being spent on state races.

Additionally, Republicans recommended capping so-called organizational expenditures that state parties can make on behalf of candidates. Currently, there is not limit on this spending.

Finally, the GOP package would lower the limit on individual contributions to parties from $10,000 to $5,000.

The Government Administration and Elections Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on the Democratic bill today.

“Republicans have offered five sensible fixes to Connecticut’s broken campaign finance system to close loopholes and once again eliminate pay-to-play for state contractors. They were ignored, and the bill up for consideration makes things worse,” Klarides said.